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Languages in International Schools - help!

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by zrcadlo, Nov 4, 2011.

  1. zrcadlo

    zrcadlo New commenter

    Hello all
    I read this forum a lot and find it very interesting and useful as I am currently in my first international post. I wondered if you could help with this particular issue:
    In your schools, how does your Languages Department cope with Native Speaker students requiring different levels of tuition alongside foreign-language learners? For example, when you have native French speakers arriving in a year group where the students are learning French as a foreign language, what kind of arrangements do you make?
    -do you have more than one French teachers who teach at the same time, at different levels from beginner to native speaker?
    -do you have the native in the classroom, and the teacher provides different work? If so, do you have syllabi from the native country's education system that you follow?
    -do you train them for IGCSE first language in their native language, and if so, do they pass? (the exam is hard)
    -do parents organise their own private tuition for their children, and does it coincide with the rest of the year group's language slots, and if not, do you have issues with the natives missing other classes to do their language lessons?
    -any other ways?
    I know this seems like a big question but I"ve got a big task - I'm new in post leading a Languages Department of a relatively small school, and I'd really like to get some advice whilst thinking about which direction to go in.
    Thank you very much for any help you can give.
     
  2. zrcadlo

    zrcadlo New commenter

    Hello all
    I read this forum a lot and find it very interesting and useful as I am currently in my first international post. I wondered if you could help with this particular issue:
    In your schools, how does your Languages Department cope with Native Speaker students requiring different levels of tuition alongside foreign-language learners? For example, when you have native French speakers arriving in a year group where the students are learning French as a foreign language, what kind of arrangements do you make?
    -do you have more than one French teachers who teach at the same time, at different levels from beginner to native speaker?
    -do you have the native in the classroom, and the teacher provides different work? If so, do you have syllabi from the native country's education system that you follow?
    -do you train them for IGCSE first language in their native language, and if so, do they pass? (the exam is hard)
    -do parents organise their own private tuition for their children, and does it coincide with the rest of the year group's language slots, and if not, do you have issues with the natives missing other classes to do their language lessons?
    -any other ways?
    I know this seems like a big question but I"ve got a big task - I'm new in post leading a Languages Department of a relatively small school, and I'd really like to get some advice whilst thinking about which direction to go in.
    Thank you very much for any help you can give.
     
  3. This is what our school does:
    MFL at primary is taught at different levels. The native speakers (and we have a few) go to the top level, the average kids to the second and the more linguistically challenged to the third. Unsurprisingly, they don't follow the same program. However, there is still an ongoing debate at the moment regarding the top level where the teachers feel the curriculum they follow is still not stretching the native speakers enough.
    Now this is referring to the MFL dept. Because my school has a bilingual program where kids have both French and English taught as a native language. Say for instance they will do literacy, numeracy in French in the morning and then maybe PE and humanities in the afternoon in English. The next day, they might have literacy and numeracy in English in the morning and then Art and Learning Centers in French, and so on for the rest of the week. They follow the French curriculum and the English curriculum depending on which teacher they are working with.
     
  4. In our school, we now have a native programme for French / German and Spanish speakers. Their lessons are during the MFL slots and objectives vary according to students/parents: some prepare the IGCSE first language, some follow the CNED (paid by parents), some just keep their native language going.

    I know where you are coming from, we used to be there, and native speakers would just sit in the class and do "special" work.

    A bigger problem we are facing is, as having only one MFL teacher in both French and Spanish, we cannot have different levels and we are faced with complete newbies at any time in the year, and starters in Yr8 or in Yr9 who have never studied the language before.

    That, in many ways, is much harder to cope with...We end up teaching 2 completely different lessons in one, but of course both groups get less of our attention/feedback/input which is detrimental to both too...

    Any thoughts on that?

    Another question: in your schools, do you have to accept students, at Yr10 (only one teacher / one class), who have never ever studied the language before and would join a class of A*/A standard students?
    Of course I have heard of differentiation but isn't this taking too far?

    feedback much appreciated.

    Lukum
     
  5. Angelil

    Angelil Occasional commenter

    Our school goes from age 2-18. In the primary they spend most of the day learning in English, but have certain subjects in French (such as music, art, sport, and obviously, as they get older, French itself).
    The 11-18 year olds are streamed...think there are at least 6 groups for the junior high school for French, and there are 3 for English. The English situation is hard as we have actually just reduced it this year from 4 groups to 3, so the standard at the bottom end of the groups is weaker than we have encountered in previous years.
    For the high school, there are 4 groups for English for the Grade 9, 5 for Grade 10, and then 4-5 in Grades 11 and 12. For French, I think it is similar - 4 groups or so per year group. Those in the top group for French or English are treated as native speakers of that language, regardless of whether they actually are. When entered for the IGCSEs, obviously the distinction can be made between Core and Extended, as well as choosing whether to enter them for 1st or 2nd Language.
    Provision for total beginners in French or English decreases as the students get older. When they get to Grade 11 there is no provision for total beginners at all in English and students just have to cope.
    For Spanish, there is only 1 group in each year and they take the 2nd language exam. Native speakers are discouraged from taking Spanish and are encouraged to take one of the other subjects in the option group instead.
    We also have a Japanese class in the school but this is for native speakers anyway.
    Speakers of other languages can also enter for IGCSEs in that language as independent candidates (which the school is happy to be a centre for), but they have to make any special arrangements, such as extra lessons, in their own time - they are not allowed to miss ordinary school time for this.

    Hope this helps a bit!
     
  6. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    Our school goes from 8 till 18.
    As with the previous poster, anybody in the top set for French, Spanish or English is presumed to be a native speaker, irrespective of nationality or origin.
    As the students move up through the school, the number of sets per subject increase when in the IGCSE years there are either 5 or 6 sets, depending upon demand, in English and Maths. Spanish usually consists of a couple of sets. If any student wishes to learn a language in addition to English, French ( both compulsory ) or Spanish then we arrange for a teacher of that language to come in and give private classes on a one to one basis ( paid for by the parents in addition to normal school fees ).
    A student going through the school can choose to take any of their non-language classes in either French or English. As we teach both the Bac Francais and the IB, we must be able to prepare students for both exams, so we have parallel English and French classes running in all subjects.
    We will not accept any student into the school at the IB level or in the year prior to that unless they are fluent French or English speakers. It is also extremely unlikely that we would accept anybody beyond UK year 9 equivalent unless they were fluent in English and French also. Prior to this, we have a reasonable amount of time to get them up to speed in the languages.
    My school does not enter students for any external exam until the IB years. We do not sit the IGCSE or any other external exam at that age. Therefore our whole curriculum is geared towards preparing students for the IB or Bac Francais.
     
  7. zrcadlo

    zrcadlo New commenter

    Hello again, thanks everyone for all your responses! Most helpful and I'll be referring to some of your systems in my planning.
    At the moment we make ad-hoc arrangements for Native Speakers as and when parents request it. We are getting more and more native French and German speakers for whom we need to cater, and our parents are also keen that they have qualification in their own language (this could be IGCSE native speaker or some qualification from their own system). Right now we are a small school so don't have our own provision for most Native Speakers, but some communities got together to arrange their own provision eg. a Dutch school comes to our classrooms in the evenings and teaches the Dutch children who sign up. I am going to be looking into local contacts eg Goethe, Institut Francais, Cervantes etc. to see what arrangements we can broker.
    To reply to an earlier question, we also face classes going from beginner to Native which is certainly tricky in terms of differentiation! However 2 of our department are used to teaching in classes of 32 or 34 in the UK so we are well-versed in differentiation, which does make it easier, and the others are also experienced teachers and doing well with this. Parents raise it continually as an issue - they don't believe we differentiate enough and expect beginner and advanced classes to be set up - however due to both a) lack of staff and b) the vast spectrum of abilities not lending themselves to be divided so neatly into 'beginner' and 'advanced', I don't think this will change. And yes I do accept beginners into my IGCSE groups if they a) WANT TO learn the language and b) are realistic about not being entered for IGCSE. So far it seems to be working Ok with these students - by November I find they are able to join in the same tasks as the others, albeit heavily differentiated.
    Another question - do you face, from parents, the demand for an exclusively native-speaker staff in your Languages Department? I am dealing with this one as well and am often explaining how I'm more interested in the quality of the lessons being taught than the nationality of the person who is teaching! But that one's for a day when I've got more time...
    Thanks again for all the comments.
     
  8. Yes, absolutely. And you can understand it from the parents' point of view. They are worried their kids is going to end up with a weird accent or something like that. There is definitely pressure from parents to get native speakers to teach MFL.But I think you are absolutely right about focusing on the teacher's experience and quality rather than his or her passport.
     
  9. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    We only accept native speakers as language teachers. So, for instance, all the French language teachers will have the Capes or be native French nationals who did their French teaching qualification in another country. It is exactly the same for German, Spanish, Italian, English, Russian, Bulgarian,...
    It is very difficult to maintain this policy and a large number of our language staff are part-time. This creates problems when a staff member suddenly decides to leave and they teach a minority language. So far the school has coped and will continue to do so, but it is a policy not without its inherent difficulties.
     

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